How to Clean a Handgun

Cleaning your handgun is essential for accuracy, maximizing the shooting range, and preserving its value. It’s also vital for the firearm’s safety.

Over time, excess dirt build-up in your gun gets out of control, which affects its function. No matter how often you use your gun, neglecting to clean it might force you to buy a replacement sooner or later.

In this guide, I’ll show you how to clean a handgun in a safe manner.

Cleaning Your Handgun: A Step-by-Step Guide

Proper lubrication and handling are key factors that you need to take into consideration when cleaning pistols with lots of moving parts. Let’s dive deeper into the cleaning procedure with the following step-by-step instructions:

1. Unload the Handgun

The first and most important thing to do before cleaning your gun is to unload it. You don’t want to accidentally pull the trigger and put yourself and the people around you at risk.

Even if your gun has a safety lock, relying on it 100% is definitely a bad (and life-threatening) idea.

Remove the magazine and any ammunition inside the gun while pointing it in a safe direction.

2. Disassemble the Handgun

Put on a pair of protective gloves to prevent chemicals from touching your skin, double-check that your pistol is fully unloaded, and start disassembling it.

Uninstall the guide rod, slide, spring, grip panels, frame, and barrel while using your gun’s user manual for reference.

Cover a table or any straight surface with a towel and lay down all the components side by side.

3. Clean the Barrel and Chamber

Start by cleaning the barrel all the way to the chamber. A dirty barrel bore will not only impact your pistol’s accuracy but also make accidents more likely to happen.

In a well-ventilated area, Get a bore brush and dip it into some solvent, then insert it into the barrel in one direction to trap the solvent inside. Don’t move the bore brush in the opposite direction to prevent loose particles from getting back inside the barrel.

Then, continue cleaning the rest of the gun until the solvent does its magic.

Get rid of debris particles by wiping all the major components with a dry microfiber cloth or mechanic’s rag. You can also use a cotton swab to clean hard-to-reach areas like recesses and nooks.

Then, use a toothbrush or nylon brush to clean the surface and get rid of any remaining dirt or debris particles.

Once you’re done, you can re-clean the components with a little bit of solvent to tackle any stubborn debris. You don’t need to get the gun dripping wet for it to be effective, though. Another good idea is to use compressed air, particularly around the springs.

On a side note, it’s important that you clean the mag well, magazine, and holster regularly to protect your firearm against tear and wear. A dry microfiber cloth would do the trick; just don’t use a solvent with these components.

Now, get back to the barrel and run a clean patch holder through the barrel to scrub the gunk caused by the solvent. Repeat the process a couple of times or until the inside of the barrel is shiny.

For semi-automatic pistols, you must scrub the slide’s interior grooves quite well because that’s where you can find fouling stuck.

4. Lubricate the Gun

Use a lubricant to lubricate the gun’s components, including the barrel and the action, be it a pump, bolt, or slide. Spray the action thoroughly with lubricant until it’s clear of debris and gun fouling.

To keep things clean, put a drip pan under the gun and keep the direction of the lubricant toward the pan. This allows the residue to fall directly to the pan rather than all over the place.

You might also want to check your manufacturer’s recommendations in the owner’s manual to see if any special lubrication steps are required. Most likely, you’ll find some lubrication points that you need to lubricate individually with a needle applicator. The points are probably on the slide assembly, the exterior of the barrel, and the action.

Just make sure that you don’t apply too much lubricant to prevent debris and carbon fouling from accumulating down the line.

As for the gun magazines, you need to disassemble and clean them with a special-purpose brush. It’s important that you use safety glasses when cleaning the magazines since they’re spring-loaded, and one of them could pop right into your eyes.

Avoid cleaning the magazines with petroleum products or lubricants as this will contaminate the ammunition primers. However, a residue-free cleaning agent should be OK.

5. Inspect the Gun for Any Irregularities

Irregularities are a major concern for gun owners. They can affect the safety of your gun, as well as lower its value.

A few scratches on the exterior are fine, but anything more than that should be a cause for concern.

If you find any signs of damage, you might want to consider taking it to your local gun shop for inspection and repair.

6. Reassemble the Gun

Reassembling the gun can be tricky since you need to make sure that everything is working just like before the disassembly. Put all the components back together and test the function of the safety, magazine retention, ejector rod, locking, slide operation, and trigger mechanism are all functioning normally before attempting to load your gun.

This step is crucial from a safety point of view. You should also check the owner’s manual for the reassembly and functionality testing procedure.

7. Give the Outer Surfaces a Final Wipe

After assembling the pistol and making sure that the internal parts are clean and shiny, give it a final wipe. It’s recommended that you use a new soft cloth for that purpose. For better results, use a cloth that’s pretreated with silicone lubricant to get rid of any remaining debris and give your gun a shiny look.

Apply gun oil or metal preservative as a final thin layer of protection, and once you’re done, wash your hands with soap and cool water and wipe them down to make sure that there aren’t any heavy metal residues on your skin.

Safely dispose of the cleaning kit into a trash bag and clean the work surface thoroughly.

8. Store the Gun Safely

Finally, store your clean pistol in a designated locking container that’s designed to accommodate your gun’s style and size. This is crucial to maintain your gun in good condition and prevent dust from finding its way back inside your gun.

Ideally, the gun case should be soft on the inside and have a hard, crushproof exterior shell. It’s also important that you pick a watertight case to prevent water splashes from damaging your gun.

Advanced pistol cases are also pressure equalized. A pressure equalized gun case prevents debris and dirt from getting inside, allowing only air to flow. It’s great for long-term storage.

Things You Need to Clean a Handgun

Here are all the cleaning supplies and tools you need for your handgun’s cleaning process:

  • Solvent
  • Lubricant
  • A dry cloth or clean rag
  • Clean patch holder
  • Clean patches
  • Boring brush
  • Toothbrush or nylon cleaning brush
  • Cleaning rod
  • Cotton swabs
  • Latex gloves

Frequently Asked Questions

How Many Times Should You Deep Clean a Handgun?

As a general rule of thumb, a gun used for defence should be cleaned once every one or two months. If you regularly take the pistol to shooting ranges, cleaning it after every time is highly recommended to keep it functioning optimally and safely.

Is WD 40 Suitable for Gun Cleaning?

It’s not a good idea to clean your gun with WD-40 because it leaves a sticky residue. WD-40 might be a suitable product to clean and lubricate certain tools, but it’s not intended for firearms.

Can You Use Alcohol to Wipe Your Firearm?

While it’s OK to wipe your gun with alcohol, you must lubricate the gun immediately after doing so. Alcohol removes the gun oil, exposing it to rust and corrosion. The light coating keeps your gun shiny and functional.

Final Words

Alright, so that was a quick overview of the gun cleaning process.

A properly maintained handgun will serve you well for many years to come. As long as you use a clean cloth, cleaning solvent, a cleaning rod, and a bore brush while following the manufacturer’s instructions in your cleaning session, expect your gun to last for many years.

Remember, safety comes first, so make sure that you follow all safety considerations before, during, and after gun cleaning.